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Using Color to Visualize and Model Business Semantics in a Business Process Disclosure Number: IPCOM000194553D
Publication Date: 2010-Mar-30
Document File: 8 page(s) / 136K

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The Prior Art Database


A number of tools support drawing business processes in flow-chart form. When you draw a business process, it is often important to highlight certain aspects of the process to help those who review or implement the process to fully understand it. For example, a business analyst may want to show task ownership, whether or not a task is automated, the geographical location of the task execution, and so on. One of the most effective ways to show this information is with color. The color of a diagram element can be used to convey ideas and identify key classifications in a business process diagram. The color function available in many process modeling tools has important limitations: Colors are treated primarily as style attributes, so the colors lack explicit semantics. This makes it difficult to understand what the colors mean and to apply them consistently across one or more process diagrams. To provide a legend that explains the meaning of diagram colors, the user has to manually construct and maintain it for every process diagram-a tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone task. Changing the color for a set of elements (for example, the color of automated tasks) requires the user to review the entire process diagram and update each affected element one by one. The color scheme defined for one process diagram cannot be reused in another diagram to ensure consistency across a set of process diagrams.

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Using Color to Visualize and Model Business Semantics in a Business Process

To apply semantic criteria using color and to automate color application, this invention proposes the implementation of the following features:

Dynamic controls for viewing coloring methods and for applying color to nodes in flow diagrams based on the method selected
List of colors available for one-click application of both the color and semantic meaning to diagram elements
Rapid access to adding more categorization elements to the list of those available, for example, by creating a new role or making available other existing roles
Editable color descriptions for colors that are not part of a categorization scheme
Creation of reusable color themes for colors that are not part of a categorization scheme Show/hide color legend to display the meaning of colors used in the flow diagram
Ability to switch between coloring methods and categories to view the process flow diagram color coded by different criteria
One-click removal of color and criterion association

The following process flow diagrams show the proposed task flow for users to apply custom colors to diagram elements (Figure 1), add semantic meaning to custom colors in the color legend (Figure 2), and associate color and semantic meaning with activities based on a categorization scheme (Figure 3). Coloring by custom colors is the default color setting.

Figure 1. Coloring using custom colors task flow

Figure 2. Color legend task flow

Figure 3. Coloring using sematic criteria task flow

Note: In the following subsections, the examples shown apply to process flow diagrams.

3.1 Creating a Reusable, Semantically Meaningful Color Theme

In a traditional application, the user starts by creating a set of objects or activities and then applies colors to these elements. If the user applies a custom color to an object, it is easy to apply the same color to an object using the drop-down color picker. This invention builds on this familiar approach.

3.1.1 With custom colors, users can highlight both nodes and lines in the process flow diagram. The set of colors used in a process flow diagram are automatically converted


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into a legend, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Default names are assigned to colors in the color legend

The user can enter a semantically meaningful name for each color. The example in Figure 5 shows a user who wants to indicate the value of an activity and named each of three colors "value subtract", "value neutral", and "value add" respectively.

Figure 5. Editing the names in the color legend allows the user to create a semantically meaningful name for each each color

The color meanings added to the color legend automatically update the names of the coloring options in the drop-down color picker. This makes it easy to apply a meaningful color to any object in the diagram, regardless of whether the legend is visible. The user can also...